BANGOR — The Winslow High School girls basketball team has prided itself on its defense all season long and knew it would take an exceptional defensive performance to slow down dynamic Presque Isle senior guard Emily Wheaton in Saturday afternoon’s Class B North championship game at the Cross Insurance Center.
Wheaton had scored a combined 71 points in Presque Isle’s quarterfinal and semifinal wins.
The athletic and tenacious Black Raiders held Wheaton to 16 points and received two clutch free throws from senior forward Haley Ward with 19 seconds left in overtime to beat the Wildcats 43-39.
Sixth seed Winslow (17-5), which won its first regional title since 2005, plays South winner Lake Region of Naples (16-5) in next Friday’s 7:05 p.m. state championship game in Bangor.
Fifth seed Presque Isle finished at 15-6.
Senior guard Sarah Guimond and freshman guard Bodhi Littlefield took turns guarding Wheaton in Winslow’s player-to-player defense and got plenty of help from their teammates.
“We just tried to slow her down, contest her and tire her out,” said sixth-year Winslow coach Lindsey Withee. “The two girls I put on her did an amazing job and everyone else was sinking in the paint for help side responsibility. So we had four others waiting to help.”
“They played with a bunch of intensity the whole game,” said a somber Wheaton. “They all pinched in help-side the whole game so I couldn’t penetrate.”
Winslow has held teams to fewer than 40 points in 16 of their 22 games, including all three tourney games.
‘We knew we needed to shut down one person (Wheaton) and we did real well on help- side,” said Winslow junior guard Maeghan Bernard, who paced her team with 13 points, a game-high nine rebounds and two assists. “That’s something we stressed. She’s real good. She had an amazing game.”
Bernard rallied the Black Raiders from a nine-point deficit in the third period as she scored six points during an 11-2 run that tied the game at 33-33.
She hit three short jump shots and the Black Raiders also received a 3-pointer from Bodhi Littlefield and a putback by Ward, who wound up with 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
“Bernard hurt us,” said PI coach Jeff Hudson. “We did a diamond-and-one defense on (Paige) Trask after she hit those three threes and we had a hard time defending the short corner (jumper).”
Wheaton provided a traditional three-point play to close out the quarter and give the Wildcats a 36-33 lead.
Silver Clukey opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from the corner off a Broghan Gagnon inbounds pass and those were the only points of the fourth quarter. Presque Isle spread the floor to try to open up more room for Wheaton so she could get a lane to the basket for a shot or have the opportunity to kick it out to one of her teammates..
PI took only three shots in the fourth quarter and Winslow missed eight of its nine, including two in the final five seconds.
Bernard hit another baseline jumper, this one off a Ward pass, and added two free throws with 2:24 left to make it 40-36 before Wheaton drained her only 3-pointer to make it 40-39.
Both teams turned the ball over and Presque Isle fouled several times to force Winslow to shoot free throws. Ward hit both with 19 seconds left to expand the lead to three.
“I was scared, I’m not going to lie,” said Ward. “We shoot free throws every day in practice so I shot them like I was shooting in our home gym and, thankfully, they went in.”
The Wildcats front-rimmed a 3 and Bernard grabbed the rebound and sank a free throw with 4.7 seconds left to sew it up.
Trask had nine points for the winners and Weslee Littlefield had five rebounds, four assists and three points. Bodhi Littlefield had five points.
Wheaton had five assists and four rebounds to go with her game-high 16 points. Maggie Castonguay had nine points, Maddie Michaud had eight points and three rebounds and Savannah Rodriguez grabbed eight rebounds. Chrissy Skidgel had five rebounds, two blocked shots and three points.
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